, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1014-1025

Optimal benthic macrofaunal sampling protocol for detecting differences among four habitats in Willapa Bay, Washington, USA

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Abstract

As part of an effort to estimate estuarine habitat values with respect to ecological indicators of benthic macrofaunal community condition, an optimal (effective and least costly) sampling protocol (sample unit size [area x depth], sieve mesh size, and sample number [n]) was determined. The goal was to use four ecological indicators (number of species, abundance, biomass, and fish and crab prey abundance) to detect differences among four intertidal habitats in Willapa Bay, Washington, United States. The four habitats were eelgrass (Zostera marina), Atlantic cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis), and ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis). Four sample unit areas (0.005, 0.010, 0.015, and 0.020 m2), two sample unit depths (0–5 and 0–10 cm), and two sieve mesh sizes (1.0 and 0.5 mm) were evaluated. The optimal sampling protocol was defined as the least costly protocol capable of reliably (statistical power, 1−β≥0.80) detecting significant (α=0.05) differences among ≥4 of the 6 pairwise habitat contrasts by ANOVA on all four ecological indicators. The relative cost of each sampling protocol was estimated as a direct function of the sample unit size and number and the cost-in-processing-time ratios of 1 (5 cm deep):1.7 (10 cm deep) and 1 (≥1.0 mm macrofauna size fraction); 2.5 (≥0.5 mm macrofauna size fraction), which were taken from previous studies. The optimal sampling protocol was 15–20, 0.01-m2×5-cm deep, 0.5-mm mesh samples per habitat.